Tributes to two instrumentalists

Sriram Venkatkrishnan’s latest Encore piece in the Hindu is about the passing away of Carnatic musician and nadaswaram vidwan T N Rajarathnam Pillai (in 1956); the piece is a must-read, at least for some of the rare insights that it gives into Pillai’s musical training and lineage:

The Hindu’s tribute, titled “Memoir,” recorded that “even if Rajarathnam Pillai had not taken to nagaswaram, it is quite possible he would have shone as an outstanding vocal vidwan.” TNR’s singing prowess was known to many and though he did not choose to advertise it he did give at least one vocal concert over the radio.The diarist N.D.Varadachariar wrote warmly about it in the 1940s. He had at a very early age been trained in vocal music by Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Iyer and Tirukodikaval Krishna Iyer. He had even performed vocal duets with his sister Dayalu. It was only on the suggestion of the pontiff of the Tiruvavaduturai Mutt that he was trained on the nagaswaram and what a farsighted suggestion it was. But then, given that TNR was nagaswaram wizard Tirumarugal Natesa Pillais nephew and adopted son, the pontiff perhaps had an intuition. In fact it was Natesa Pillai who gave TNR the name Rajarathnam. He had been christened Balasubramaniam at birth.

The uncle however died early and it was under Ammachatram Kannusami Pillai that he learnt the basics of nagaswaram. The Hindu gives his Guru’s name as Markandam Pillai, a name not found in other articles on the maestro.

TNR was, however, largely self-taught, like two other geniuses in the field, Flute Mali and Veena S. Balachander. The instrument was really his Guru and also his devoted slave.

In two pieces, Deepa Ganesh and Ravindra Yavagal remember and pay their tributes to Ustad Bale Khan, a sitar maestero, who passed away a few days ago:

Khansaheb belonged to the league of great artistes. If he sat with his sitar, there were times when he would stay put all night. Such was the rigour of his sadhana. For all those who grew up listening to his meditative-scholarly playing, it was difficult to listen to anyone else play the sitar. Music existed for its own sake for Khansaheb. His engagement with his music was so deep that he never felt the need to chase money, name or fame. He was happy and contented with whatever he had. Khansaheb was so unlike other artistes, and not once have I seen him making a bitter remark.

I haven’t seen anyone gentler, more mild than Khansaheb. He spoke very little, but was extremely democratic in nature. His students could confide in him anything, he was a willing listener. Young or old, beginner or advanced learner, Khansaheb’s treatment to all of them was with equal commitment. I remember how he would start his lessons as early as 6 a.m. in the morning and it would only end at 11 p.m. Apart from a quick tea or lunch break, he wouldn’t take any breaks. His patience was something that left me constantly surprised! Khansaheb was incapable of having enemies. Whoever came in contact with him loved him deeply and had great respect for him.

Take a look!

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One Response to “Tributes to two instrumentalists”

  1. sapthagireesan Says:

    I remember a night-long concert of TNR in Shevapet Salem (circa1950).It was a procession along the Main Streets.In all, around four sittings of around two hours each.In the last session,we were so absorbed in the music that when the strains of Bhoopalam came floating in the air, we turned back and saw that the day was dawning! His earlier renderings on Thimiri Nayanam had their own captivating Charm but his later renderings on the Bari Instrument were no less either. For sample His Thodi alapana and pallavi and Subha Panthuvarali Alapana and Pallavi have remained benchmarks.Another TNR is yet to come !

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